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Suzuki has taken another step towards launching its first hydrogen fuel cell-powered vehicle, unveiling a fully operational small-scale facility capable of producing its next-generation propulsion technology.

The ready-to-scale production plant opens just 12 months after Suzuki Motor Corporation and UK-based technology company Intelligent Energy joined forces to create ‘SMILE FC’ with the goal of developing and manufacturing air-cooled fuel cell systems for cars and other applications.

SMILE FC president and Suzuki executive vice president Osamu Honda explained the opening of the production line marked the successful transfer of the proven semi-automated production technology to the real world.

“It brings us closer to delivering on our commitment to achieve efficient and cost-effective production of fuel cell systems for integration into clean energy vehicles,” Osamu said.

Intelligent Energy CEO Dr Henri Winand said the Yokohama-based production line was evidence of the “rigorous, results-oriented collaboration” between the two companies.

“Fuel cell systems provide one of the best solutions to reducing carbon emissions from vehicles,” Winand said.

“This [small-scale production line] demonstrates how our focused commercial approach accelerates and de-risks our partners and customers’ deployment plans.”

The next step in the program is to scale up the manufacturing centre to supply fuel cell stacks for Suzuki vehicles. The joint venture has access to Intelligent Energy’s fuel cell technology under a non-exclusive licence, accelerating Suzuki’s commercialisation of hydrogen-powered vehicles.

Suzuki has been developing its fuel cell technology for a number of years, and in 2009 unveiled the Suzuki SX4 FCV (top) at the Tokyo motor show.